right to protest in America is under attack, and it all involves a
case against a Black Lives Matter activist. Conservative Republican
judges are coming for your right to protest and making up laws to
punish racial justice movements. And you should be concerned about
all stems from a lawsuit that a Baton Rouge police officer filed
for a 2016 protest Mckesson organized against the police killing of
Alton Sterling. An unknown perpetrator threw a piece of concrete at
the officer - who is identified as “Officer
in court filings - striking him in the face and causing “injuries
to his teeth, jaw, brain, and head.” Doe is seeking damages.
2017, Judge Brian Jackson, a federal judge appointed by President
Obama, ruled that Mckesson “solely engaged in
under the First Amendment and, as a peaceful protester, could not be
held responsible for the actions of a violent demonstrator.
when the case was appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals,
three out of the five judges reviewing the case - a Republican
majority - ruled that Mckesson was potentially liable for the
anonymous perpetrator’s attack on Officer Doe.
problem is that the Supreme Court had already decided years earlier
v. Claiborne Hardware Co.
that “Civil liability may not be imposed merely because an
individual belonged to a group, some members of which committed acts
of violence. For liability to be imposed by reason of association
alone, it is necessary to establish that the group itself possessed
unlawful goals and that the individual held a specific intent to
further those illegal aims.” In other words, someone such as
Mckesson can’t be held responsible for the violent actions of
an unknown person attending the protest.
later, one of the three Republican judges who had ruled against the
Judge Don Willett
- a Trump appointee - backtracked. In a stunning dissent, he
repudiated his own vote against Mckesson. Essentially, Judge Willett
said he and the rest of the court got it all wrong, and the law did
not support their decision. “I have had a judicial change of
heart,” Willett wrote. “Admittedly, judges aren’t
naturals at backtracking or about-facing. But I do so forthrightly.
America, political uprisings, from peaceful picketing to lawless
riots, have marked our history from the beginning - indeed, from
before the beginning,” Willett added, invoking the Boston Tea
Party and Dr. King’s Selma-to-Montgomery march over the Edmund
Pettus Bridge two centuries later.
nice as that sounds, Willett’s “come to Jesus”
moment did not change the court’s decision against Mckesson.
The U.S. Supreme Court took the case and then sent it back down to
the lower federal courts to determine if the laws of the state of
Louisiana - through the Louisiana Supreme Court - would allow Officer
Doe to sue Mckesson.
brings us to the most recent March ruling by the
Louisiana Supreme Court,
which said the officer can sue DeRay Mckesson under Louisiana law. So
here we are, with a Black Lives Matter activist who maintains he did
nothing wrong because he did nothing wrong, and courts kicking the
can when this frivolous lawsuit should have been thrown out at the
such as this, favored by Republican politicians, judges and police
officers, are meant to have a
on free speech.
right to protest is one of the five fundamental freedoms enshrined in
along with freedom of religion, speech, press, and the right to
petition the government. During her confirmation hearings, Justice
Amy Coney Barrett
- perhaps the least qualified Supreme Court justice in recent memory,
unlike the preeminent Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson - couldn’t
remember that the right to protest was part of the First Amendment.
That lack of knowledge or memory lapse by the
does not bode well for the highest court and what the Constitution
calls “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”
of this takes place in a vacuum, and the case of DeRay Mckesson is a
cautionary tale. Following the police murder of George Floyd in
Minneapolis, America experienced a racial awakening, with 15
to 26 million people
participating in Black Lives Matter protests, making this the largest
movement in U.S. history. Proponents of white supremacy and the
status quo decided something must be done about these uppity Black
protesters and their white coconspirators.
the past five years, 45 states and the federal government have
considered 245 pieces of legislation restricting the right to
peaceful assembly, according
to the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL),
with 38 laws enacted and 45 bills pending. While the supporters of
such legislation claim their goal is to prevent violence, the true
aim seems more insidious. These bills inflict punishment for blocking
roads, ban mask wearing by demonstrators, and seize protesters’
assets. Some legislation would even
protect drivers who run over and kill protesters.
traffic is a common tactic that protesters use, and apparently,
lawmakers would like to eliminate these protesters and their
2017, activist Heather Heyer was killed when a Nazi plowed into a
crowd of racial justice protesters at the Unite the Right rally in
James Fields Jr.
was sentenced to life in prison for the murder, but these new laws
would protect white supremacists like Fields.
Louisiana, state Rep. Danny McCormick - a
Second Amendment fan
and an oil and gas executive - introduced
in February that would protect people who murder demonstrators during
a “riot,” a vague term under Louisiana law. The
legislation would “provide that a homicide is justified when
committed to prevent imminent destruction of property or imminent
threat of tumultuous and violent conduct during a riot.”
about this bill’s civil liberties and racial implications, some
critics call this legislation the
“Kill Protesters” Act
Kyle Rittenhouse Bill
- named for the white teen who shot two protesters to death and
injured another in Kenosha, Wisc. And the legislation was introduced
the day after a white woman named
60, was killed in a mass shooting during a demonstration in Portland,
Ore. These people know what they’re doing.
is why the suit again DeRay Mckesson is important, for it is part of
a larger picture. Their goal is to take away the people’s right
to protest and ultimately eliminate the people who protest.
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